Myanmar is on the move and cor- porate Myanmar is gathering pace. In Asia it is the IT sector which has really been one of the fastest driv- ers of growth for the last decade or more in countries like India, Philippines and Viet- nam and which has the potential to lead Myanmar in the coming decades but faces a huge talent mismatch and crunch due to lack of trained skilled workforce.
In a country of 60 million people and where it was once the citadel of learning and the pin- nacle of higher education in the South East Asia now it does not even produce 1/10th of manpower for the needs of the growing IT industry. The college educated workforce needs to be re skilled and re-trained by the industry and the training costs are huge. As a result of this huge mismatch between demand and supply of quality coders, pro- grammers and architects, the compensation along with attrition will be the critical factors in the coming years. Myanmar IT should grow based on the quality, but if there is only cost advantage, then the growth would be hindered to a large extent.
For producing good-quality software engi- neers, you need three ingredients – knowl- edgeable faculty, good students, and stat- of-the-art infrastructure. Colleges need to provide state of the art infrastructure for IT education and students produced by school system could be better, but they are certainly not very poor quality. So, the real reason for not so great graduates is lack of good qual- ity faculty in most ICT departments across the country. We may argue that Myanmar is not producing quality enough PhDs, or even Masters, and hence the pool will be small where most corporates will end up hiring fresh graduates. If one compares the com- pensation levels of industry and academia even in the best institutions in the country, the compensation of faculty could be a game changer in the long term game of Myanmar becoming the next IT powerhouse of the region. This major challenge in the coming years, and much wanted talent may end up leaving the faculty jobs for greener pastures.
So, one of the hindrances to an accelerated growth of top quality education in ICT area is the compensation of faculty. Government may or may not do much in this regard in a short span of time so corporates should advocate differential (market-linked) com- pensation package in education sector, and increase pay packages of faculty in colleges. It is interesting to note that there is perhaps a need for about 250,000 skilled IT man- power in the next five years. In this scenar- io, industry should accelerate and improve the quality of education. The freebies from application software companies giving soft- ware at a lower cost, hardware companies discounting more on the hardware, and oth- er technology companies organizing training sessions for up skilling the knowledge levels of faculty will compliment to a large extent to this issue. But what is really needed at this time is to find ways to improve the com- pensation packages of faculty in these areas, and the Government may not be able to act fast, so Corporate Myanmar should encoun- ter the challenge by ploughing back some of the profits back to schools and colleges that would positively impact the compensation of its faculty.
Pay back for every student hired. When you hire a fresh graduate (or a student just before graduation) and found that you want to re- tain the talent for every such employee send a thank you note, and a check equivalent to one month salary of the employee, back to the college from where this employee grad- uated, on the condition that a percentage of the amount will be distributed to faculty of IT/CSE department(s). This will encourage the colleges to impart their students the im- portance of stability and not changing jobs frequently, since they get the incentive for graduates who stay in their first job for at least a year.
Matching grants by employers. Another proposition is to give grants to IT/CSE de- partments of various colleges where your talent is sourced from, and contribute to all such colleges in the proportion of the number of employees from that college who work for the enterprise. Also like practiced in many western nations any donation that an employee makes to her alma mater is matched by The corporates should look into Managed Service vendors to outsource their training needs, These outfits can quickly turnaround and up skill the workforce in the state-of the art facility, latest curriculum and trained faculty.
Managed Service Vendors the Corporate Myanmar can look into outsource their training needs, These training centers can quickly turnaround and up skill the work- force in a state-of the art facility, teach the latest curriculum and highly trained faculty.
Set up Chairs and Awards. Companies may set up chairs in university departments. This would involve giving a sum of money upfront and provide certain guidelines on selection of a faculty member who will benefit from such a chair. And once a faculty member is selected, the interest of the endowment is used to give an extra honorarium to this faculty member and also take care of some of the professional expenses of the faculty member, like conference travel, etc. Alter- natively companies may set up their own awards. Every year, they may decide to award few faculty members in honorarium, and some other professional expenses, for a period of few years. Companies can even give just a yearly amount to the college to distribute to the faculty member. One example is the recent setting up of Yogeshwari Ghai Foundation who provides grants for the fac- ulty. This mechanism is crucial in the sector development, according to Mr. Anshuman A. Ghai, Chairman & Managing Director of I Berg Private Limited a Talent Capital and Education Services company based in Sin- gapore who is bringing in Aptech Computer Academy to Myanmar.
“This initiative of grant will hugely impact the quality by giving them an opportunity to enhance, upskill and reskill their skills through this grant or fellowship”. Aptech International is a retail and corporate train- ing giant in IT which has over 1300 training centers in 40 countries and also the first ISO 9000 certified training service provider in IT from South Asia.
In summary, these discussed will improve the quality and quantity of faculty across the country so that the industry can continue to get good-quality graduates for its expansion.
These practices will also accelerate and ac- centuate the IT skills in Myanmar. Assum- ing that the software industry in the coming decade 2014-24 will be earning at least 2-5 billion USD, and if the companies spend 0.1 percent to support compensation and perks for faculty, the quality and quantity of tech- nical graduates will go up substantially, and the IT skill of this country will allow the IT companies to grow further and even mul- tinational companies seeking to set up off shore development centres.
Kevin Gomes is principal consultant with IMA Executive Search, an IMA Group Com- pany which specializes in talent capital and management services based in Yangon, Myanmar. He can be reached at kgomes@ imaexec.com